There seem to be endless ways that breastfeeding moms are shamed when they're out in public, despite the fact that in almost every single state, public breastfeeding is legal. Still, this breastfeeding mom allegedly had a restaurant cover her with a dishrag while she was feeding her child and people are rightfully upset. Romper's request for comment from Giovanna's Pizzeria, where the incident allegedly took place, was not immediately returned.
Katy Bullard was eating at Giovanna’s Pizzeria in Phenix City, Alabama with her husband and 3-month-old daughter, Ashlyn earlier this month and began to breastfeed her daughter when she got fussy. Bullard told Fox News that she was using the ""two-shirt method" with a tank top and a t-shirt so that her full breast wasn't exposed. She told Fox News, "This way of breastfeeding keeps all but your baby's head covered and yet they approached me as if I were topless. In fact, I nursed my daughter for 20 minutes or so before they even noticed I was breastfeeding."
Bullard alleged that the owner of the restaurant approached her and told her to cover up because she was "offending" her Christian beliefs, according to WRBL News 3. Bullard told news station, "When I told her I would not [cover up], she came over with a dish rag. I am not sure where she got the rag from, but she tried to cover my daughter and me up with it. I told her I didn't want to be covered up and she tried again."
Bullard continued, according to WRBL News 3, "I removed the towel and told her we would just leave. She said I didn't have to leave, but I had to cover up because she was a Christian and I was offending her beliefs. I told her I had rights and I'd rather leave than cause a big scene."
She does, in fact, have rights. In Alabama, women are legally allowed to breastfeed in any public or private place, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, though they aren't exempt from public indecency laws. Given that Bullard was breastfeeding under her shirt, many would argue that was really no reason for her to "cover up" in the first place.
Nelson Rodriguez, who owns Giovanna's with his wife, issued the following statement to WRBL News 3, saying that the incident was a misunderstanding:
Giovanna's has been in business for 16 years. Giovanna's doesn't discriminate against anyone and most certainly not individuals wanting or needing to breastfeed. We would never intentionally embarrass a client. We were honestly acting in goodwill. We are very sorry this customer felt we intentionally embarrassed her and apologized to her at the time. We never asked her to leave. In fact, we told her she didn't have to leave. My wife was simply honestly trying to assist her. It was clearly a misunderstanding. We are a family business and always have our customers best interest at heart.
In another statement to Fox News, he reiterated that they have welcomed breastfeeding moms in the past and "allow" it, which totally misses the point. It's not up to a pizzeria owner to decide who can breastfeed and where — the state's law protects breastfeeding women. And there's no reason to be scared of a woman feeding her kid.
According to People, Bullard isn't going to bring a lawsuit or try to shut them down. She just wants more people to understand the laws and why we have them. "I just want them to be aware that what they did was wrong. And there’s nothing sexual or indecent about feeding a baby. From a Christian standpoint, Jesus wasn’t fed by a bottle," she told People.
Still, on social media, a lot of people agree with the restaurant, tweeting comments that sexualize the act of breastfeeding and shaming women for their breasts. One man tweeted, "How about do that in the car before you go in like normal people! The last thing I wanna see is someone breast feeding at the dinner table!" Others echoed the sentiment that breastfeeding was "gross" or that people should have "modesty" while feeding their kid.
In reality, the complaints against women breastfeeding in public say more about the person making them than the act itself. Breasts are made, in part, to make milk to feed children. What's indecent is making a baby wait to be fed, a woman sit in discomfort because her breasts are full of milk, and "covering up" someone without their consent. There shouldn't be any confusion or misunderstandings about that.